In the latest episode of Political Wire's podcast, we sat down with Democratic consultant and media strategist Joe Trippi for a look at the 2014 elections, the future of the political parties, and the potential for technology to disturb the reigning two-party paradigm.
Here are five takeaways:
1. Republicans stand to gain seats in 2014 — maybe win the Senate — if they don't shoot themselves again: After taking a beating in the government shutdown battle, Republicans have pulled even or edged ahead in the generic congressional polls, with the botched ObamaCare rollout hurting the Democratic Party and taking its toll on President Obama's favorability and approval ratings. Said Trippi: "If they're as low as they are today, regardless of whether it's because of ObamaCare or an economy that hasn't recovered ... that will probably mean losing the Senate." But it also could be déjà vu all over again for Republicans: "The last two cycles they should have won the Senate, but those opportunities were essentially blown in Republican primaries."
2. The best thing each party has going for it is the other party: Republican base voters are energized for 2014 because they have a sitting president whom they dislike. Historically, the party that doesn't hold the White House almost always does better in midterm elections. Said Trippi: "But we've never seen a party's congressional numbers as low as they are for Republicans right now. How do those things match up in November, who pays a bigger price for that?" Democrats should find a way to energize their base to boost their own turnout. One idea gaining traction is to campaign on populist-oriented ideas like the minimum wage and jobless benefits. If and when Republicans block these ideas, Democrats could again paint them as the 'party of no.'"
3. The GOP civil war won't be over in 2014, and maybe not until at least post-2016: Both wings of the Republican Party will take credit if the party makes gains in the 2014 midterms, only pushing off the resolution of the party's ongoing civil war. The last hurrah, then, may come in 2016 in the form of another bruising presidential nomination process. If the GOP makes gains in 2014 and a huge swath of the party takes the wrong signals, Republicans "are going to wake up in shock again the day after the 2016 election," Trippi said.
4. If that happens, Republicans still don't have someone who can unite the establishment and Tea Party wings in 2016: In 2008, rising progressive star Barack Obama defeated establishment favorite Hillary Clinton in part because he opposed the Iraq war, but he eventually managed to unite the rest of the party around him. As for Republicans, Trippi said, "I'm not saying that person can't emerge, but today we don't see who that person is. That's a huge problem for the Republicans ... I think given their other problems [such as demographics and low favorability], that means that the Democratic nominee has more than the usual shot at winning the presidency." Hillary Clinton could face a progressive challenge in 2016, but probably not one that would create as much chaos as what Republicans are likely to face.
5. If polarization continues, the internet's organizing power will help bring along an independent or third-party candidate: "The ability for millions of people to come together around one candidate and provide the money and resources and energy and the organizational structure to that candidate to help him get the victory, it's inevitable." Even if the candidate were to lose, it would still be healthy for the country, "even if all it did was made both parties rethink some of their philosophical and ideological cement that they're in."
Listen to the whole conversation here: